A Night To Surrender, by Tessa Dare

>> Monday, August 13, 2012

TITLE: A Night To Surrender
AUTHOR: Tessa Dare

PAGES: 400

SETTING: Early 19th century England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: First in the Spindle Cove series

Welcome to Spindle Cove, where ladies with delicate constitutions come for the sea air, and men in their prime are...nowhere to be found.

Or are they?

Spindle Cove is the destination of choice for certain types of well-bred young ladies: the painfully shy, young wives disenchanted with matrimony, and young girls too enchanted with the wrong men. It is a haven for those who live there.

Victor Bramwell, the new Earl of Rycliff, knows he doesn't belong here. So far as he can tell, there's nothing in this place but spinsters...and sheep. But he has no choice, he has orders to gather a militia. It's a simple mission, made complicated by the spirited, exquisite Susanna Finch--a woman who is determined to save her personal utopia from the invasion of Bram's makeshift army.

Susanna has no use for aggravating men; Bram has sworn off interfering women. The scene is set for an epic battle...but who can be named the winner when both have so much to lose?
Victor 'Bram' Bramwell is a military man through and through. As far as he's concerned, if he's not leading men on the battlefield, he's not a proper man. Unfortunately, his leg was badly injured in battle, and he's now having trouble getting a new command post. His quest to return to active duty takes him to the small town of Spindle Cove, where he seeks to convince influential military inventor Sir Lewis Finch to support him. He's in for a surprise: Sir Lewis requests he put together and train a militia to protect the town in case of invasion, with the implication that his recommendation will hang on the successful completion of that mission.

It should be a straightforward enough thing to do, but it turns out that men are thin on the ground in Spindle Cove. Through the years, and thanks to Sir Lewis' daughter, Susanna, the town has become a refuge -temporary and otherwise- for women who for whom regular society is not a good place.

Bram and his men (including his supposedly charming, ne'er-do-well cousin, Colin) are outraged by this place where the pub has been turned into a tea shop and the smithy makes lockets instead of horseshoes. They'll get their militia any way they can, and make this a town fit for men again. But to do this, they will face the opposition of Susanna, a woman Bram finds strangely irresistible.

I started this series with the second book, A Week To Be Wicked, and found it adorable and charming. The storyline was kind of preposterous, but it worked anyway, since I happily suspended disbelief and went with the flow. On the surface, A Night To Surrender had the same elements going on. The difference was, in this book, they just didn't work.

The first few pages irritated me, and this annoyance didn't really fade as the book went on. It's tough to do a "battle of the sexes" plot that won't drive me mad, granted, but this one shouldn't have annoyed me as much as it did. I started out resenting Bram and Colin: their first thought when they come to Spindle Cove is that it's so horrible that the men there are "reduced" to unmanly things, like the tea shop's landlord doing delicate pastries, or the smithy I mentioned earlier, with his lockets. They'll do something about it, which includes that disgusting idiot Colin invading the tea room and turning it into a tavern, sporting a new sign: "The Rutting Bull". It's supposed to be funny, but I'm not laughing. I'm just thinking of the thousands of taverns all over the country where women are not allowed. These entitled idiots find one place in the whole world that is for women and they immediately want to make that one for men as well.

Now, Bram comes to realise this soon enough, so obviously, Dare is not oblivious to the issue. It still didn't make it feel any less irritated. The message seems to be that women need men, just like men need women. Fine, I wholeheartedly agree with that in general. I just object to extrapolating from this that therefore, a tiny little place in the whole male-dominated world, like Spindle Cove, which acts as a refuge (temporary, in many cases) for women who are somehow wounded or unsuitable for that world, needs men as well. Sorry, but no.

It wasn't just my feminist hackles being raised that was an issue with the book, though. I was also quite bored by the insta-lust. Bram's immediate and overpowering obsession with Susanna is another case of something I've often liked just fine, but which didn't work in this particular case. It just felt wrong, completely at odds with who Bram was otherwise shown to be. I think what Dare might have been trying to do was something that Loretta Chase does beautifully: the rigid hero completely discombobulated by the heroine. I love that, but in this book, it felt wrong. There was way too much sex, as well, and it ended up being boring.

I also thought the humour felt somehow off. It seemed to rely on people being blithering idiots, and I was supposed to think this was oh-so-funny. Take the militia's early preparations, for instance. Tee-hee, they can't walk in a straight line! Oh, come on, that's just cartoonish. And I really resented what Dare with Colin and Minerva here. I'm so glad I read their book first, because if I'd met them here, I would very definitely not have wanted to read one more word about them. They both come across as mindless twits.

I could go on listing little niggles, but that's probably enough. A big disappointment.



Phyl 13 August 2012 at 14:13  

I started to read this, but just couldn't continue for many of the same reasons you mention. I'm glad to see this review because after it won a RITA I wondered if maybe I was all wet. I did like A Week to be Wicked, but can't decide if I'll read the next book in the series or not.

Rosario 13 August 2012 at 19:40  

Good to know, Phyl, because everyone seems to love this, so I was wondering about myself as well! I think I'm going to give the third one a shot, see how it goes. I liked what I saw of the hero in the previous 2 books, and the heroine seems sensible enough...

Marilyn 15 September 2012 at 01:15  

I'm interested to see your review, Rosario. I wrote my review and then looked around to see what others thought of the book, and was rather discouraged to see that I was the only one not giving this book an A/5 stars.

I agree with your review. There were parts of the book that just stuck in my craw. I was a little annoyed that the book needed to change Spindle Cove, as if such a healing place for women would not be complete without alpha males.

Marilyn, the Mean Fat Old Bat

Rosario 15 September 2012 at 12:19  

I think it's the unthinking assumption that no straight woman could be complete / happy without a man. Sorry, but much as I love romance, that's not true, and this town was a good example of it.

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